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Joe Thomas focused on recovery first before looking toward 2018 and beyond

The shock hadn't fully worn off by Monday.

Joe Thomas learned the hard news after an MRI. His 11th NFL season was over and surgery would be right around the corner after scans revealed he ruptured his left triceps.

It marked a hard and fast stop to one of the game's all-time streaks of endurance, toughness and overall good fortune. After playing 10,363 consecutive snaps over a 10-year span, Thomas will miss the Browns' final nine games and faces a six- to nine-month recovery.

"It is definitely surreal," Thomas said on a conference call with local reporters. "Obviously you don't ever expect to be injured, but as a football player you have to always understand the realities of the violent sport that we play, that at any moment it could be taken away from you and you could be sitting on the bench and rehabbing an injury. I think in the back of your mind you are always prepared for it, but you are not always ready for it.

"I think it has kind of been a whirlwind 24 hours here and I have mainly just kind of been focusing on what to do from a medical standpoint."

Thomas fielded numerous questions about the prospect of a 12th NFL season, but he wasn't ready to go there. Not yet. Even if he hadn't suffered the injury, Thomas said he was going to make his decision on whether or not he'd be back for another season during the offseason.

"I have a chance to maybe start my rehab and see how things are progressing and have that conversation with the family," Thomas said. "Certainly I have got one more year on my contract and we will see how things shake out in the offseason."

Thomas has dealt with nagging injuries, aches and pains and undergone relatively minor surgeries in the offseason to maintain a body that weathered 167 games over 10 and a half seasons. His offseasons, he said earlier this season, became more and more important as his career progressed. He embraced yoga and recently began "cupping" treatments that help reduce inflammation and the lingering pain that comes from playing so much football.

There was simply no playing through the pain Sunday when he lost all function of his left arm.

"You are pushing guys and you are blocking guys and you are punching guys for so many years, kind of with the same arm and the same motion that overtime, you know, your tendons, just like a lot of things in your body break down," Thomas said. "Then it just takes that one play where they have been weakened and then all of the sudden that one play is sort of the straw that broke the camel's back."

The injury was a back-breaking moment for a young Browns roster that suffered its seventh loss in as many tries Sunday against the Titans. In the meantime, Spencer Drango is expected to fill Thomas' void against the Vikings, and the Browns offensive staff will evaluate other possible options during the bye week.

Browns coach Hue Jackson admitted "next man up" is a tough task for anyone when the player they're replacing is a future Hall of Famer, but "it does" apply in this situation.

Thomas said he hoped to be around the team as much as possible during the second half of the season but it will be impossible to replicate his everyday presence as a veteran leader and team captain.

"I just think in our locker room, you are used to having him in there, seeing him in there and knowing he is going to play. He has been an iron man," Jackson said. "You walk out there, Joe Thomas is on the field ready to go. I think our players, we need to get past that as fast as we can. We don't have that safety net anymore. He is not going to be here playing this season, the rest of this season.

"As fast as we can, we have to turn that corner."

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